Statistics show that 50 million cattle and calves are slaughtered in the U.S. for food each year. Each American consumes approximately 80 pounds of beef and veal. Cattle have just as mind-numbing and suffocating lives as those of dairy cows. Many of the male calves, stolen from their mothers and placed in veal crates, are never allowed to nurse from their mothers. Veal calves are forbidden to touch the ground with their feet or lick minerals from the ground because the veal farmers fear the absorption of iron may taint the ultimate product: white meat, whose cosmetic appeal comes from an animal kept anemic.
Humans would certainly not enjoy a life lived in an anemic state, and neither do veal calves, forced to live their short lives with iron-poor blood. Such calves feel weak and too tired to do little more than lie, wasted, in their compartments. Calves allowed to develop as nature intended would have energy to romp and play with pasture mates, not wither away in a tiny box The only escape veal calves find from their prison-cell is when the tops of their backs hit the ceilings. Only then are they released to the slaughter.
So, too, the piglet, born on a concrete floor to a mother deprived of straw for making a nest and unable to stand up or turn around in the farrowing crate, is viewed by the farmer as an entity to be processed, not appreciated for any inner spirit or personality. The moment he is born he begins his journey at the tender age of three weeks when he is put into a iron-barred nursery. At six months of age he is moved to a growing, then a finishing pen, and then, shortly thereafter, it’s on to the slaughterhouse. In that six-month lifespan, the pig is reduced to an aberration of what nature intended him to be. His teeth are cut out; his tail removed, and he is fattened under artificial lights in a building rife with disease. Sick with salmonella, gastric disturbances, and arthritis, all causes of overcrowding, the market pig never sees the light of day.
The pig, morphed into a monstrous version of his original self, cannot recognize any part of himself that resembles a pig: a curious, talkative, playful, ingenious, and clean animal. He is unable to muster any visage of himself as an honest, intelligent, protective, independent and happy spirit. All he has available to know himself is that which is reflected back to him in the other pigs sharing his tiny prison-pen. He sees himself in them: physical wrecks, so heavily muscled they can hardly move, with no tails, few teeth, and eyesight dimmed from lack of sun and stimulation. Sadly, he sees himself in them: lethargic, bored, dazed by their world’s lack of stimulation, neurotic, and consumed by dread--from a life so unnatural, so hard, so cold, and so unkind.
Raised as though he had a dollar sign tattooed on his back, a market hog never asks his farmer for a kind rub on the cheek, a scratch to the belly, for a pig, who possesses an uncanny degree of intelligence (pigs are as smart as a three-year-old person) understands he has been bred to be eaten, though he avoids thinking about this at all costs. A pig’s only consolation lies in the short-lived social climate created amongst his fellow doomed pigs with whom he shares a tiny box as a home--with whom he nudges and offers a friendly scratch, with whom he shares his daily meals, and with whom he communicates the same fears and regrets. When he comes of killing age at six months--at what should be the happiest, most playful time of his life--his enthusiasm for warm days and cloudless skies is literally sliced short--his neck draining his life-blood onto the floor where millions had bled before him.
Farmers deny the pig any equivalent human traits of personality, curiosity, intelligence, playfulness, sociability, and affection. Stripping the pig of individuality and feelings absolves the farmer of guilt: the guilt accrued from the mistreatment and butchering of a being that, in many ways, resembles his fellow humans. For an animal so similar to man in body mass and with organ systems characteristic of people’s, so much so that pigs sacrifice their own aortic valves for ailing humans, farmers and all those associated with this animal’s dispatching treat them no differently than a vegetable to be processed.
Chickens, too, just like pigs and steers, lead horrific, short lives in large, windowless sheds housing 25,000 broilers. Eating from trays worked by computers so that the food and drink are always at the chicken’s head height, the birds consume all day long without benefit of fresh air or sun. Packed so closely together, they are denied normal chicken habits: rolling in dust to keep parasites away, pecking the ground for grubs, insects, and sprouts. They are denied any behavior natural to a chicken: roosting in a tree, running in the outdoors, socializing with roosters and other hens. And after only one month of silent gorging, all 25,000 of them are slaughtered.
These chicken sheds are unknown to most people. Chicken farmers keep these sheds under tight wraps. Should anyone happen upon one and open the door, he’d see the sea of white animals, hear the equally shocking silence, and catch his breath at the suffocating odor. And he would be ashamed at the suffering his species has caused another.
Anyone can see these chicken sheds from the road as he takes a ride into the country. They usually are part of a farm including a nice farmhouse, a decent barn for some cattle or pigs or even horses. But in the back in a secluded area of the farm sits a long, usually green, aluminum-sided rectangular shed wherein thousands and thousands of birds languish. One should be on the lookout for these buildings--no less than huge torture chambers: long buildings with no widows, with giant fans on either end of the structures. Passing such a structure should make a person think about the feathered lives inside, lives that lack life as it was meant to be, life as it lacks any joy or freedom.
Not only do our farm animals receive no burial at all, but their bodies never can lie at peace in one piece. An animal’s body in the slaughterhouse, finds its way to a packing plant where its legs, rump, ribs, and other body parts are cut, quartered, and sectioned into manageable pieces. The pieces are then processed and packaged and distributed all over the country. One pig’s front ribs may be consumed by a family in Dallas, TX while the same pig’s back ribs may be eaten by a couple in Bangor, Maine. So, while a decent burial for a farm animal is unlikely, the idea of its finding solace somewhere as a single body is totally inconceivable. Taken to the final stage of the processing, one pig’s body, after being consumed by fifty or more people, would be expelled from those people in even more infinitely different places, finally finding their resting place in the myriad sewers and septic tanks below the many homes and apartments within many different towns and cities of many different states.